Government Schemes & Policies
- Fifth anniversary of UJALA and SLNP
- Maharashtra integrates land records to PMFBY
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Smog tower in Delhi
- Australian bushfires
- Increase in number of saltwater crocodile
- Chinese paddlefish declared extinct
- Miyawaki method of Afforestation
Bilateral & International Relations
- Iran withdraws from JCPOA
- Global Drosophila conference
Art & Culture
- Bibi Ka Maqbara
Science & Technology
- Optical telescope under Project NETRA
Ethics & Integrity
- Ethical Veganism
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Government Schemes & Policies
Fifth anniversary of UJALA and SLNP
The Centre plans to replace around 1.34 crore conventional streetlights with LED bulbs across the country by March 2020 under the LED Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP).
- Under the SLNP programme, over 1.03 crore `smart` LED streetlights have been installed till date, enabling an estimated energy savings of 6.97 billion kWh (kilowatt hour) per year.
- Under UJALA programme, 36.13 crore LED bubs have been distributed so far. This helped in reducing the green house gas emission by 38 million tonnes annually.
- The year 2020 is the fifth anniversary of the Centre`s zero subsidy `Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All` (UJALA) scheme and `LED Street Lighting National Programme` (SLNP).
About the Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP):
- The Central Government’s Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) was launched in January 2015.
- Under the programme around 3.5 crore conventional street lights will be replaced with smart and energy efficient LED street lights by March 2019.
- The programme aims to install LED bulbs street-lighting across different cities in the country. The LED lights will replace inefficient lamps.
- Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India (GoI) is the implementing agency for SLNP.
- EESL also undertakes social audits in all states post the completion of the project.
Objectives of the programme:
- Reduce energy consumption in lighting which helps DISCOMs to manage peak demand
- Mitigate climate change by implementing energy efficient LED based street lighting
- Provide sustainable service model that obviates need for upfront capital investment as well as additional revenue expenditure to pay for procurement of LED lights.
- Enhance municipal services at no upfront capital cost of municipalities
- Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is a joint venture of NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and POWERGRID, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) was set up under Ministry of Power (India) to facilitate implementation of energy efficiency projects.
About the UJALA scheme:
`Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All` (UJALA) is a flagship project of the Govt. of India where it wants every home in India to use LED bulbs so that the net power or energy consumption rate comes down and the carbon emission rates can also be checked.
- The main objective of scheme is to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduce electricity bills and preserve environment.
- It is LED based Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP). Under it, LED Bulbs are distributed.
- Its purpose is not only to help reduce electricity bills of consumers but also contribute to energy security of India.
- It is being implemented by EESL, a joint venture of PSUs under Union Ministry of Power.
- LED bulbs have a very long life, almost 50 times more than ordinary bulbs, and 8-10 times that of CFLs, and therefore provide both energy and cost savings.
- The Ujala scheme uses economy of scale and a sustainable market mechanism.
- It is globally one of the largest efficiency programmes.
Maharashtra integrates land records to PMFBY
Maharashtra becomes the first state in the country to seamlessly integrate its land records with the web portal of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
- This integration has been rolled out during the 2019-20 Rabi season, with farmers accessing their land details online at the enrollment centres.
- This will help in checking the cases of “over-insurance” — insurance of more land than in possession — as well as insurance of ineligible people.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY):
- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched by the government of India in 2016.
- The Crop Insurance Scheme is in line with One Nation – One Scheme theme.
- The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) as well as the Modified NAIS.
- It consists of a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops, and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.
- Providing financial support to farmers suffering crop loss/damage arising out of unforeseen events.
- Stabilizing the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
- Encouraging farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
- Ensuring flow of credit to the agriculture sector which contributes to food security, crop diversification and enhancing growth and competitiveness of agriculture sector besides protecting farmers from production risks.
The enrolment under the scheme, subject to possession of insurable interest on the cultivation of the notified crop in the notified area, shall be compulsory for following categories of farmers:
- Farmers in the notified area who possess a Crop Loan account/KCC account (called as Loanee Farmers) to whom credit limit is sanctioned/renewed for the notified crop during the crop season. and
- Such other farmers whom the Government may decide to include from time to time.
Voluntary coverage may be obtained by all farmers not covered above, including Crop KCC/Crop Loan Account holders whose credit limit is not renewed.[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Smog tower in Delhi
Recently a smog tower or a prototype air purifier was inaugurated at Lajpat Nagar in Delhi.
- Regarding the extreme air quality of Delhi, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and the Delhi government to prepare a plan to install ‘smog towers’ across the capital to deal with air pollution.
What is a smog tower?
- Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers. They are usually fitted with multiple layers of air filters, which clean the air of pollutants as it passes through them.
- The 20-metre (65 feet) high smog tower will trap particulate matter of all sizes suspended in the air. Large-scale air filters shall draw in the air through fans installed at the top before passing it through the filters and then releasing clean air.
- The filters installed in the tower will use carbon nanofibres as a major component and will be fitted along its peripheries, to facilitate reduction of particulate matter.
- The smog tower installed at Lajpat Nagar is capable of treating 6,00,000 cubic metres of air per day and can collect more than 75 per cent of particulate matters (PM) 2.5 and 10.
- The project is a collaboration between the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, IIT-Delhi and the University of Minnesota, USA, in association with The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Smog Tower in China:
- China, which has been battling air pollution for years, has two smog towers — in its capital Beijing and in the northern city of Xi’an.
- The Xi’an tower is dubbed the world’s largest and has reportedly brought down PM 2.5 by 19% in an area of around 6 sq. km in its vicinity.
- The 100-metre (328 feet) high tower has produced 10 million cubic metres of clean air every day since its launch, and on severely polluted days, is able to bring down smog close to moderate levels.
- The smog tower in Beijing has been able to compress the carbon waste generated during purification to produce gemstones used in ornaments.
Australia’s 2019–20 bushfire season is of notable intensity compared to previous seasons as it has burned an estimated 10.7 million hectares (107,000 square kilometres) destroyed over 5,900 buildings as of 8 January 2020.
- Almost half-a-billion wild animals including the landmark of Australia Koala and Kangaroos have died in the recent bushfires in Australia, according to conservative estimates by experts. The actual figures would be much higher and perhaps never be known.
- A study by the University of New South Wales has said that 480 million animals could have died in the state since September 2019, when the fires began.
How fires started?
- Australia’s deadly bushfires sparked in September 2019 and have been blazing ever since.
- Due to the long-term drought that began in 2017 in southern Western Australia, the Australian Bushfire and Natural Hazards anticipated an eventful fire season for 2019-2020.
- The hot, dry and windy weather has precipitated an early and grisly start to this year’s fire season. Strong winds have also made the fires and smoke spread more rapidly.
- The drier the fuel – trees and plants get, the easier it is for fires to start and get nastier.
- The fire-fighters of Australia, U.S. and Canada are working together to combat the devastating fires.
Causes of such devastating event:
- Each year there is a fire season during the Australian summer, with hot, dry weather making it easy for blazes to start and spread.
- Natural causes are to blame most of the time, like lightning strikes in drought-affected forests.
- Dry lightning was responsible for starting a number of fires in Victoria’s East Gippsland region.
- Humans can also be to blame. NSW police have charged at least 24 people with deliberately starting bushfires.
- Experts say climate change has worsened the scope and impact of natural disasters like fires and floods — weather conditions are growing more extreme, and for years, the fires have been starting earlier in the season and spreading with greater intensity.
When will the fires end?
- Unfortunately, Australia is only about halfway through its summer season. Normally, temperatures peak in January and February, meaning the country could be months away from finding relief.
- The fires are unlikely to end entirely since they are an annually occurring event — and may even get worse if recent years are a guide.
About the koala:
- The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia.
- It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae.
- The koala is found in coastal areas of the mainland’s eastern and southern regions, inhabiting Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
- Though often called the koala “bear,” this cuddly animal is not a bear at all; it is a marsupial, or pouched mammal.
- Koalas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- The kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae (macropods, meaning “large foot”).
- Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia.
- There are four species of kangaroo, the Red, Antilopine, Eastern Grey and Western Grey Kangaroo.
- Kangaroos have large, powerful hind legs, large feet adapted for leaping, a long muscular tail for balance, and a small head.
- The kangaroo is a symbol of Australia and appears on the Australian coat of arms and on some of its currency.
Increase in number of saltwater crocodile
The annual reptile census 2020 indicates an increase in the number of saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) in Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park and its nearby areas in Kendrapara district.
- The forest officials counted 1,757 individuals in this year as compared to 1,742 crocodiles last year.
- The numbers of crocodiles are gradually increasing since the reptile census of 2001.
Bhitarkanika National Park
- Bhitarkanika National Park is a 145 sq. km (56 sq. mi) large national park in northeast Kendrapara district in Odisha in eastern India.
- It was designated national park on 16 September 1998 and obtained the status of a Ramsar site on 19 August 2002.
- The area is also been designated as second Ramsar site of the State after the Chilika Lake.
- It is surrounded by Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, which spread over 672 sq. km (259 sq. mi).
- Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary are to the east, separating swamp region and mangroves from the Bay of Bengal.
- The national park and wildlife sanctuary is inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, and Pathsala.
- It hosts many mangrove species, and is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.
- The national park is home to saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Indian python, king cobra, black ibis, darters and many other species of flora and fauna.
Three species of crocodilians:
There are three species of crocodilians as below:
- The mugger crocodile, also called the Indian crocodile, or marsh crocodile, is found throughout the Indian subcontinent.
- It is listed as vulnerable by IUCN.
- The mugger is mainly a freshwater species, and found in lakes, rivers and marshes.
- The Gharial or fish eating crocodile is native to the Indian subcontinent.
- It is listed as a Critically Endangered by IUCN.
- Small released populations are present and increasing in the rivers of the National Chambal Sanctuary, Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Son River Sanctuary and the rainforest biome of Mahanadi in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Orissa.
- Saltwater Crocodile:
- It is the largest of all living reptiles. It listed as least concern by IUCN. It is found throughout the east coast of India.
- The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) was an iconic species, measuring up to 7 m in length, dating back from 200 million years ago. It is native to the Yangtze River and is one of the world`s largest species of freshwater species.
- The last confirmed sighting of the fish was in 2003.
- It is thought to have become functionally extinct by 1993. Functionally extinct means the species continues to exist but it has too few members to enable to reproduce meaningfully enough to ensure survival.
- The last individuals of the species are thought to have died between 2005 and 2010.
- The reasons for the extinction of the paddlefish are said to be overfishing and habitat loss.
- The Yangtze or Yangzi is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country.
- It rises in the northern part of the Tibetan Plateau and flows 6,300 km in a generally easterly direction to the East China Sea.
- It is the sixth-largest river by discharge volume in the world.
- Its drainage basin comprises one-fifth of the land area of China and is home to nearly one-third of the country’s population.
IUCN Red List Categories for Extinction:
- “Extinct in The Wild” means a species survives only in a captive environment.
- “Locally Extinct” means a species has ceased to exist in a particular area but may exist in other areas.
- “Functionally Extinct” means the species continues to exist but it has too few members to enable to reproduce meaningfully enough to ensure survival.
- “Globally Extinct” means a species has no surviving member anywhere.
Miyawaki method of Afforestation
The Miyawaki method of afforestation is to come up on the government office premises, residential complexes, school premises, and puramboke land in Kerala.
- The Forest Department is the nodal agency in the State. To take the initiative forward, each department had been asked to nominate nodal officers in the State and district levels.
What is Miyawaki method of afforestation?
The Miyawaki method of Afforestation has been developed by a Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki which involves planting saplings in small areas, causing them to “fight” for resources and grow nearly 10 times quicker.
- The method originated in Japan, and is now increasingly adopted in other parts of the world, including Kerala.
- By promoting natural vegetation on land destroyed by natural calamities and man-induced mistakes along the coastline of Japan, Miyawaki managed to raise mini-forests.
- The Miyawaki method of afforestation has revolutionised the concept of urban afforestation by turning backyards into mini-forests and can be practised in government office premises, residential complexes, school premises, and waste land.
- It is possible to grow a variety of native species in as little a space as 600 sq ft.
The process explained:
- A pit has to be dug, and its dimensions depend on the available space. Before digging the pit, the list of tree species should be chosen judiciously. As there is very little space to work around with, trees with varying heights should be chosen. For example, if a tree that can grow up to 30 feet is planted, the next one should be considerably shorter. This ensures the branches don’t clash.
- Fill it with one layer of compost, followed by a layer of natural waste such as bagasse and coconut shells and then top it with a layer of red soil.
- Plant the saplings following interval and tree height specifications.
- The whole process can be completed in two to three weeks. The saplings have to be maintained regularly for a year.
- The exercise will cost approximately ₹ 20,000 for a mini forest in 600 sq. ft.
Significance of this method for Kerala:
- The replication of the model across Kerala, which has suffered floods, landslips and soil erosion, assumes significance with the Rebuild Kerala initiative.
- These forests serve as a natural barrier against soil erosion and Tsunami. As Chennai has had a bitter taste of Tsunami, it would do well replicate this model.
Bilateral & International Relations
Iran withdraws from JCPOA
Iran has announced its full withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, following the U.S. targeted strike that killed the country’s Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on 3rd Jan 2020.
- Iran has ended its commitment to any limits on the level of uranium enrichment, stockpile of nuclear fuel and also nuclear research and development.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):
- The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a detailed agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, 2015.
- The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015.
- Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
- The JCPOA established the Joint Commission with the all the negotiating parties represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.
- Iran signed JCPOA after being hit with devastating economic sanctions by the United Nations, United States and the European Union that estimated to have cost it tens of billions of pounds a year in lost oil export revenues, frozen assets and trade loss.
Developments under JCPOA:
- Donald Trump had walked away from the landmark nuclear treaty in May 2018 arguing that it emboldened Iran to act against American interests.
- However, the European Union, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China attempted to keep the international agreement alive.
- The deal offered Iran sanctions relief and investment in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.
- Iran remained committed to the pact until May 2019, despite the reimplementation of American sanctions, as it negotiated with international leaders to preserve the agreement.
- However, it began taking steps to disregard some of the deal’s terms last year, one year after the U.S. withdrawal.
- In the wake of the killing of Soleimani, Iran decided to fully withdraw from the pact.
- The country’s leaders had long criticized the international community, particular European nations for failing to adequately pressure the U.S. to return to the deal.
- Iran currently does not have nuclear weapons and analysts believe that it would take country at least a year to develop one
- Leaders in Tehran have repeatedly said that they do not seek to create such a weapon, and want to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Global Drosophila conference
The fifth edition of the Asia Pacific Drosophila Research Conference (APDRC5) is going to be organised in Pune.
- It is being organised in India for the first time by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER).
- The last four editions of this conference took place in Taipei, Seoul, Beijing and Osaka.
Aim of the conference:
- This biennial conference is to be held between January 6 and 10, aims to promote the interaction of fruit fly Drosophila researchers in the Asia-Pacific region with the researchers across the world.
What is Drosophila?
- Drosophila is a genus of flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae, whose members are often called “small fruit flies” as the species linger around overripe or rotting fruit.
- Drosophila is one of the most widely-used and preferred model organisms in biological research across the world for the last 100 years.
- Its genome is entirely sequenced and there is enormous information available about its biochemistry, physiology and behaviour.
Art & Culture
Bibi Ka Maqbara
- Bibi Ka Maqbara is a famous 17th century Mughal-era monument in Aurangabad,
- It was commissioned by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1660 in the memory of his wife Dilras Banu
- The structure is known as the ‘Taj of the Deccan’ because of its striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal.
- The monument is in news as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has undertaken its scientific conservation recently.
- The domes and other marble parts of the mausoleum will undergo scientific conservation.
- The conservation work will cost ₹ 45 lakh and the work which will go on for six months, will involve cleaning and carrying out a chemical treatment to give a new glow to the monument.
- The paintings inside the entrance of the mausoleum too, will undergo cleaning.
Science & Technology
Optical telescope under Project NETRA
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) for cooperation in the field of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Astrophysics was signed at ISRO Headquarters on 2nd January 2020.
- This MoU will pave the way for future collaborations between ISRO and IIA in establishing optical telescope facilities under NETRA Project for space object tracking, studies related to space weather, Asteroids, and other Near Earth Objects (NEO).
- Network for space object Tracking and Analysis or ‘Project NETRA’ is a proposed early warning system in space to detect debris and other hazards to Indian satellites.
- It was initiated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on September, 2019.
- Under the project ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities: connected radars, telescopes; data processing units and a control centre.
- Space debris is the biggest problem for the satellites. There is more than 7,500 tonnes of space debris circling Earth at the present.
- NETRA can spot, track and catalogue objects as small as 10 cm, up to a range of 3,400 km and equal to a space orbit of around 2,000 km.
- It can also give warning against missile or space attack for the country.
Significance of the project:
- The project will give India its own capability in space situational awareness (SSA) like the other space powers — which will be used to ‘predict’ threats from debris to Indian satellites.
- Currently, India operates 15 communication satellites, 13 remote sensing satellites and eight navigation satellites. NETRA’s eventual goal is to capture the geostationary orbit (GEO) at 36,000 km where communication satellites operate and ensure their protection.
Ethics & Integrity
A tribunal in the United Kingdom has ruled that “ethical veganism” is a philosophical belief protected by British law against discrimination.
What’s the issue?
- The development came after a person accused his organisation to have discriminated him on account of his ethical veganism beliefs.
- The tribunal had to determine if ethical veganism fit the criteria of a religious or philosophical belief.
- The tribunal determined that ethical veganism meets the test required to be a philosophical belief, because of which it is protected under The Equality Act, 2010.
- A vegan person does not consume meat products and also products that are derived from animals. (such as milk, eggs, etc.)
- ‘The Ethical Case for Veganism’ in the Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics, loosely defines veganism as a lifestyle choice to refrain from eating meat as well as products made from or by animals.
- Ethical veganism has been defined as the view that attaches a positive ethical valuation to a vegan lifestyle.
- There are two types of ethical veganism:
- Broad absolutist veganism: under which it is always wrong to use any product made by or from animals.
- Modest ethical veganism: under which it is typically wrong to use products made from or by a range of animals including cats, dogs, cows, pigs, etc.
- It makes a distinction between products made from animals, such as meat, and products made by animals, such as milk.
- Ethical vegetarianism is opposed to products made from animals in particular.
Britain’s Equality Act, 2010:
- The Equality Act, 2010, protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in the wider society in the UK.
- The Act offers a basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation in services and public functions, etc.
- The Act’s provisions relating to work include making pay secrecy laws unenforceable, giving employment tribunals the power to make recommendations that benefit the wider workforce, and extending protection to religion or belief.
- Under the Act, a belief is defined as any religious or philosophical belief. Since the tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief, it is a protected characteristic under the Act.
- For a belief to be considered as a philosophical belief under the Act, it needs to be a belief — and not an opinion or a viewpoint based on the present state of information; it should be genuinely held; it should concern a “weighty” and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; it should be “worthy of respect in a democratic society”; and it should be held with “sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”.